Decision-making meetings have the potential to become minor wars. By considering elements in the right order, you'll make your decisions much more smoothly.
After framing, the group decides on criteria. Criteria are used to compare options against other. When choosing a car, price and gas mileage are two criteria we might care about. Suitability for carpooling in a post-apocalyptic world is a criterion we might not care about. Since the framing is set, everyone will choose criteria related to the same framing, finding a retail location for a plant community. The group quickly agreed on relevant criteria: walk-in traffic, monthly rent, and convenient garbage disposal. (The Audrey 2 nursery seems to fill several trash bags each night.)
Agree on Process
Next, agree on how the decision will be made. How will you decide which option wins? You can try for unanimous agreement. You can choose majority vote. You can try a non-benevolent dictatorship.
Next, agree on how the decision will be made. How will you decide which option wins? You can try for unanimous agreement. You can choose majority vote. You can try a non-benevolent dictatorship: one person hands down a decision from On High and everyone else has to suck it up and live with it. You can also choose a benevolent dictatorship where the benevolent dictator listens, before making the decision.
Whatever process you choose, agree up front. Some decisions may call for unanimous agreement, while others may best be done as a decision by the owner. When people agree on process first, then even if that process chooses an option some people don't like, they'll usually agree to abide by the decision. Even though she's the majority shareholder, Bernice has suggested that the location decision be unanimous. This is a lifestyle business and we want to keep our team together and happy. So we want everyone to agree with the decision, even if it takes longer to get full agreement.
At last, the process work is done! It’s time to start generating options. You want to find options after choosing the decision criteria and process. If you do it in the other order, you risk having your choice of criteria or process biased by the options on the table. You don't want to choose criteria and process to fit your options, you want to find options that fit a high-quality set of criteria and a good decision process. You'll get better options if you have each person list ideas separately, then share them together. If you brainstorm as a group, the options you get will cluster around one set of ideas.
For example, Bernice wants a country storefront, Melvin favors a downtown location, and Europa is convinced the suburbs are the route to world domination...er, I mean, building a satisfying lifestyle business.
Finally, evaluate the options using the criteria you've chosen. Then use your agreed-upon process to make your choice. After much discussion, the group agreed that the decision criteria—walk-in traffic, monthly rent, and convenient disposal of the mysterious Audrey 2 trash bags—were only satisfied by the downtown Financial District option. Melvin piped up, "Plus we're doing good for the world by locating the Audrey 2 nursery by the Goldman Sachs parking garage." I have no idea what he's talking about, but then, his brother Seymour would also occasionally come out with non-sequitors. I just nod and smile. It makes life easier.
What makes life easier is running streamlined decision meetings. Start with your larger level goals and agree on how you'll frame the decision. Choose your decision criteria and agree on your decision-making process. Identify your options, and then and only then, decide. Doing things in this order will help you keep meetings to a minimum and decisions to a maximum. You just might save enough time to go out for a picnic somewhere that's green.
For more tips on how to spend less time in meetings and more time actually doing things, check out Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.